Boasting the biggest contingent at the ISSF World Championship at Baku, India did their reputation as a shooting powerhouse no good with a disappointing start in the capital city of Ajerbaijan.
The lone bright spot on Thursday was a team bronze in men’s 10m air pistol with Shiva Narwal, Sarabjot Singh and Arjun Singh Cheema combining to finish behind China (1749) and Germany (1743). The Indian trio totaled 1734.
The bronze helped India open their account, they lie joint sixth with Iran and Bulgaria. China top with 4 gold and 1 bronze, followed by Germany, Greece, Hungary and Serbia joint second with a silver apiece.
While the bronze is welcome, India was banking on the individual shooters to bring glory in the men’s and women’s 10m air pistol.
Shiva was the best-placed Indian in men’s 10m air pistol with a qualification score of 579 at 17th, followed by Sarabjot at 578 and a spot back. Arjun shot 577 to lie 26th.
China’s Zhang Bowen shot the best qualification score of 587. In the final, Zhang showed why he emerged the top name with 244.3. It was about pedigree. A double gold medallist at the 2022 Cairo World Championship in 10m air pistol mixed team and 50m pistol mixed team, silver in 50m pistol and bronze in 10m air pistol mixed team. The World No.2 had also finished 6th in 10m air pistol at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
“I am very happy to get the quota place, I had a responsibility to get it for my country. I still have to work hard for the team and do my best in the competition. In a shooting competition you always need to beat yourself so I tried to focus on myself and I wasn’t afraid of any other competitor,” Zhang said.
The silver went to Serbia’s Damir Mekic (240.8), ranked World No.1 and silver medallist at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, and bronze was for Bulgaria’s Kiril Kirov (215.7), who won his first medal in shooting’s showpiece event. It was a remarkable progress as before this he had only won two medals at the European Championship.
Zhang and Kirov also clinched a quota place for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games along with Robin Walter of Germany and Jason Solari of Switzerland.
In women’s 10m air pistol, Esha Singh was the top Indian with 572, followed by Palak Gulia (570) and Divya TS (566). Their combined score placed them 11th in the team event among 24 teams.
The qualification was topped by Anna Korakaki of Greece with a score of 584. Three shots back was China’s Jiang Ranxin and Iran’s Golnoush Sebghatollahi (580).
World No.1 Anna could not justify her top billing in the final and settled for silver with 238.3. The Greek shooting star had an enormous reputation to protect after her gold in 25m pistol and bronze in 10m air pistol at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but the day belonged to Ranxin (239.8), bronze medallist in 10m air pistol at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Jiang also won the Olympic quota along with Rahel Sara Fabian of Hungary, Vinh Thu Trinh of Vietnam and Bomi Kim of Korea.
“During the competition I was very calm so I did not care about the other athletes. I am enjoying the competition here, we are all trying to do our best, I have done very hard work during training and I try to keep calm during the competition,” said Jiang.
The bronze went to China’s Li Xue with a score of 218.9. Li had won gold in 10m air pistol at the Bhopal World Cup earlier this year.
There was heartbreak for Iran’s Golnoush Sebghatollahi who was not permitted to start in the final after equipment failure.